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23rd January
2011
written by LS Girl

Debt.  Get out of debt.  Debt Free.  Credit Card Debt.  Till Debt do us part.  You can get a handle on spending, and eliminate debt. 

Debt is bad.  Especially credit card debt… in today’s society, credit card debt is akin to having an affair, or stealing.  No one talks about how much credit card debt they have… and no one talks about WHY they have credit card debt.  Truthful reasons for credit card debt are vast:

“The Steelers are going all the way this season!”

“I like shoes.”

“I love shoes.”

“I need every sports package my cable TV provider has to offer”

“My furnace died”

“My spirit died”

“My cat/dog/ferret needs an operation”

“The carpet is ugly”

“I need the latest and greatest”

“My wife left me”

“Christmas”

“DROID”

“iPhone apps”

“Power Leveling”

“Power Ball”

“Addiction”

All of the above may apply!

The first notable reference to credit cards was made in 1887.  1887!  By the 1920’s, stores offered their own credit/charge cards, and by 1960… Visa, Diners, and American Express were in a heated competition for our business.  The 70’s gave us Mastercharge, which as we all know, became Mastercard.

Fast forward a decade or two, and we are bombarded by:

Debt Consolidation!

Be Debt Free!

Get out of Debt Fast!

HELOC!

Do you know how many money related shows are on cable television?  I don’t.  I tried to count them for this post, but there were too many.

The tag lines for getting out of debt are everywhere.  How do I know?  Because in January, 2009, I faced the fact that I had $19,000 worth of it.  $13,000 on American Express, and another $6,000 on my Mastercard.  I barely made enough money to pay the minimums.  I had no hope of ever paying it off.

I am about to outline my personal journey with debt.  I am not an expert.  I’m just a person, or at least I try to be.

The first thing I did was  give up.  Completely.  I think I even added another $1,000 in debt because it seemed so insurmountable.  Then, I got angry.  I was angry with myself.  If I’d only… I shoulda… Why did I do this or that.  Then… I got serious.  And I mean SERIOUS. Lastly, and this is the probably the thing that saved me:  I got educated.

My research started with books and reading.

“Your Money or Your Life”:  this book is for anyone, at any point in their life.  It changed my life.  I know people say that, but this book changed my life.

“Get Rich Slowly”:  again, a great book for anyone.

I read books about self control and books on how to live simply, but they pretty much said the same things as Your Money or Your Life.  Now, this book is extreme… if you can do 10% of it, you’re kicking serious ass. 1% will change your life.  100% would change your life, and the life of everyone you know.

After reading non-stop, I was modestly educated.  The next step was to find some kind of “program”.  Again, I did research.  Suze Orman.  Dave Ramsey.  The Motley Fool.  Debt Free in Three.  I checked them all out.  From these philosophies, I created something that motivated ME.  And that is the best advice I can give you.  Do what works for you… what speaks to you… what motivates you.  It’s hard.  It’s painful.  It sucks a lot of the time if you let it.   BUT… in October of 2010, I officially had, and still have ZERO balances on both cards.  I have No credit card debt.

Here is how I did it:

I took the Financial Peace University class.  Every Sunday night for 13 weeks.  That helped with accountability.  I read a lot of  Suze Orman’s stuff, and I downloaded the Debt Free in Three tool.  I debt snowballed. I emergency funded myself.  I canceled everything.  I said no a lot.  I stayed home a lot.  I did things myself.  I prepared all my own meals.  I ate lots of rice.  I told people about my mission, which also helped with accountability.

I worked full time at my same pay, and I cut back, but that wasn’t enough to pay off all that debt… so:

I cleaned houses

I applied to be on the board of my condo association which networked me to additional commercial cleaning and property management opportunities.

I house sat.

I pet sat.

I baby sat.

I became a chacha guide which is like being a human google search engine… I could do this any time of day or night and get paid per click.

I wrote, I edited, I did desktop publishing.

I washed my daily contact lenses really really good and wore them twice.  I mended my clothes;   stitched up seams and sewed on buttons. I canceled and downsized every service I could.  I turned down the heat, and turned up the A/C.

I did not use CoinStar, I rolled my own.

Almost every penny went to pay off debt.  I went out occasionally, and traveled minimally.  I didn’t completely deprive myself.  But as I said, I got SERIOUS.  Anything that didn’t get me closer to paying off my debt wasn’t of interest to me.  I was like an athlete in training… I was training for a ZERO balance.

Actually, it was like a race.  The Debt Free in Three program offers this great spreadsheet that actually shows you the date when you’ll be debt free.  You put in how much you make, and do a very general  assessment of expenses, and it shows you the exact date.  Then, you can tweak it.  Wherever you can squeeze out a few more dollars, the spreadsheet will changes the date, and so on.  Once you see a date that motivates you, you just stick to that plan, as it’s presented to you.

12 / 1/2012

That is the date a person earning 30k a year would pay off $20,000 in debt, factoring in an average rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries, and expenses such as haircuts, birthdays and Christmas.  STILL with all that:  20k… gone by 12/1/2012.  Let’s say you fell off the wagon, needed a new stove, and a new transmission… what’s the worst that could happen, you’re debt free by March of 2013?  That’s still totally AWESOME.

I encourage anyone with any kind a debt… even if all you have is a mortgage… to at a minimum, get Debt Free in Three and plug the numbers in.  If you’re in the next group of debtors, with car payments, mortgage, and maybe a personal load or credit card balance… you might want to get some additional accountability with a group like Financial Peace University.  It helps you stay focused,  and you have continuing support from the staff.  I’ve run in to 4 people from my class in the last 6 months, and they ALL were still on track, or had reached their goals.

I know this is a long post, and the graphics suck ass… thanks for reading.  Here are some links:

Your Money or Your Life:

http://www.amazon.com/Your-Money-Life-Transforming-Relationship/dp/0140286780

Get Rich Slowly:

http://www.amazon.com/Get-Rich-Slowly-Building-Financial/dp/0028608453/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1295823575&sr=1-1

Financial Peace University:

http://www.daveramsey.com/fpu

Here is a really great website with lots of tools for managing your finances:

http://www.mint.com/

🙂

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1 Comment

  1. This post was mentioned on Twitter by Abe Day and Debt2Millions, Susan Jones. Susan Jones said: LifeStuff.Org » Blog Archive » Debt.: Dave Ramsey. The Motley Fool. Debt Free in Three. I checked them all out.

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